Why the “Jesus-fish”?
The Story of the Fish
The ichthys, or “Jesus-fish” as it is commonly known, has been around for centuries and definitely long before it appeared on the back of an old sedan. The word ichthys (or ichthus) comes from ancient Greek word “ΙΧΘΥΣ”. The letters in the word represent a specific idea relating to Jesus Christ.
- Iota (i) is the first letter of Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), Greek for “Jesus”.
- Chi (ch) is the first letter of Christos (Χριστὸς), Greek for “anointed”.
- Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (Θεοῦ), Greek for “God’s”.
- Upsilon (y) is the first letter of yios (Υἱὸς), Greek for “Son”.
- Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for “Savior”
The fish shape of the ichthys symbolizes one of Jesus’ miracles, the feeding of the multitudes, where Jesus was able to feed over 5000 by blessing two fishes and five loaves of bread. This miracle demonstrated that through faith, when left in the hands of God, a little can go a very long way.
During the early days of Christianity, when persecution was common, believers used the symbol to help identify each other. One traveler during the course of conversation would draw an arc or half of the symbol. If the other traveler drew the other half, the could take comfort in knowing that they were with another believer. The symbol was also used to indicate where a prayer meeting would be held.
Many Christians to this day display the symbol not only as a sign to other believers but as a reminder that miracles still happen.
Why It’s Here
The ichthys has the same meaning today.
I display it here as a symbol of my faith. I hope that my actions are a visible symbol of my desire to be more “Christ-like” in word and in deed. To display kindness, charity, comfort and encouragement to those in need, and to display righteous indignation to injustice, exploitation and other evils. While in the US, persecution of Christians is not common, it still takes place in many areas of the world. The display of the ichthys here is a sign of solidarity with those that are oppressed for their Christian faith, and a prayer that if placed in such a dangerous and challenging situation I would be as brave as those that are willing to risk their life for the Lord.